By looking at the development of Chinese television dating shows, we can see how love and marriage changed from a ritualized system mired in the past to the liberated, Western-style version we see today.Marriage matchmaking has always been an important cultural practice in China.For generations, marriage was arranged by parents who followed the principle of “matching doors and windows,” which meant that people needed to marry those of similar social and economic standing.
Thought to contribute to peace and stability, it was the dominant custom into the latter half of the 20th century.
But China’s 1978 “Open Door Policy,” which transitioned the country from a rigid, centrally planned economy to a global, market-based economy, exposed the Chinese people to an array of outside cultural influences.
Meanwhile, the country’s 1980 marriage law codified, for the first time, freedom to marry and gender equality.
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View the full list Today, dating shows are an important ingredient in China’s cultural diet, with popular shows like “If You Are the One” and “One Out of a Hundred” attracting millions of viewers.For single people, they’re a platform for seeking potential spouses; for fans, they’re the subject of gossip and dissection; for the cultural elites, they’re a topic for derision; and for the government, they’re a target for surveillance.Compared with Western cultures, China has traditionally had a vastly different value system towards marriages and family.But over the past 30 years, these customs have been upended.I’ve studied how traditional Chinese marriage rituals have evolved in response to globalization.In many ways, dating shows became a powerful way to facilitate these changes.